Bob Quinn has an interesting draft history with the Lions. The GM has made a couple big mistakes, but probably has more spectacular picks where he knocked it out of the park.
Today, we continue our rankings of his draft picks through his first four years as Detroit Lions GM — not including the 2020 class as it is too early to rank them — which picks 16 through 25.
Reiterating from last time, this is not just a list of which players are the best, but I also include the value the team got out of each pick.
Previously: Bob Quinn’s worst nine picks
25. Isaac Nauta
2019 seventh-round pick, 224th overall — Georgia — Tight End
The Lions went to the Georgia Bulldogs well—one that has been pretty kind to them in the draft — in the seventh round last year. They took a chance on Isaac Nauta, making him the second tight end they selected that weekend.
Nauta was an interesting choice for Quinn. Similar to Teez Tabor (one of the lowest ranking players on this list), he tested poorly and does not really have any athleticism. Seventh-round picks are lottery selections that shouldn’t have big expectations, but is hard to see how a guy with a low floor and a low ceiling is even worth taking a shot on.
The tight end missed the 53-man roster last year in a weak tight end room, but did eventually find his way back on to the team when he was promoted from the practice squad in November. He played in six games and caught two passes, and did at least do something with his limited playing time.
Nauta remains in Detroit, but will have to fight his way to the 53-man roster. Even if he does make it, he seems like someone that will top out as a special teams contributor.
Games played: 6 for Lions (6 in NFL)
Currently: With Detroit Lions
24. Jeremiah Ledbetter
2017 sixth-round pick, 205th overall — Arkansas — Defensive tackle
Jeremiah Ledbetter was another late-round pick that never materialized into anything. The Arkansas product was selected in 2017 to add depth to a struggling defensive tackle room.
He made the 53-man roster and even featured in all 16 games for the Lions in his rookie year. The defender notched 14 combined tackles and was credited with half of a sack. His career never took off, but the Lions did get contribution out of their sixth-round pick.
The defensive tackle failed to make the roster in 2018. He was quickly picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has remained there since. Ledbetter has bounced between the active roster and practice squad for the Bucs, and is unlikely to make the team’s roster this year.
Games played: 16 for Lions (17 in NFL)
Currently: With Tampa Bay Buccaneers
23. Jarrad Davis
2017 first-round pick, 21st overall — Florida — Linebacker
Jarrad Davis is one of the hardest players to place on this list. On one hand, he has certainly disappointed. The linebacker has struggled immensely through the first three years of his career, and the team recently declined his fifth-year option, signalling they may want to move on from their 2017 first-round pick. On the other, Davis has retained a role as an NFL starting linebacker for three years, including 41 career starts.
It is easy to forget how impressive that feat truly is sometimes. Starting in the NFL is very hard. So many players have churned in and out of the league since 2017. Many players that once started find themselves now out of the league. Despite Davis’ poor play, he was still among the top 60 or so off-ball linebackers in the NFL — something that a player like Haason Reddick cannot say.
Davis is not a very good player, but he has shown flashes. He is this low on the list because the Lions clearly did not get enough out of this pick. He is not lower on this list because, despite his failures, it is sometimes easy to overreact to how bad he has been.
Games played: 41 for Lions (41 in NFL)
Currently: With Lions, lock to make 2020 roster and will compete to retain starting role
22. Jake Rudock
2016 sixth-round pick, 191st overall — Michigan — Quarterback
There was never much hope for Jake Rudock to become anything more than an NFL backup. He was never going to win a starting role from Matthew Stafford, and his only chance to see the field would be via injury.
Rudock still managed to stick around for two years, though. The quarterback bounced between the active roster and the practice squad for 2017 and 2018. He was eventually let go by the team and spent 2019 with the Miami Dolphins.
It’s hard to grade this pick. Not much you can expect from a sixth rounder, but Rudock did serve as backup for two seasons. He even beat out Brad Kaaya for a roster spot in 2017. He, looked fine in preseason as well. Not much more you could want.
Games played: 3 for Lions (3 in NFL)
Currently: With Miami Dolphins
21. A’Shawn Robinson
2016 second-round pick, 46th overall — Alabama — Defensive tackle
A’Shawn Robinson was an exciting pick for Detroit. Alabama produces more defensive talent, especially defensive line talent, than anyone else in college football. Bringing in Robinson would hopefully fix the interior defensive line issues the team suffered post-Ndamukong Suh.
Robinson’s career in Detroit was overall a disappointment, but he did shine in 2018. The defensive tackle was a starter for all four of his years in Detroit. In three of them, he was among the worst starting defensive tackles in the NFL. In 2018 he got to play alongside an all-time great run defender in Damon Harrison Sr., which certainly helped out the young run stuffer.
Just like Davis, Robinson was a disappointment for much of his career, but he did manage to start for four full NFL seasons. He was even good in one of those seasons. That is not much to scoff at, and that keeps Robinson away from the bottom tier of this list.
The defensive tackle went over to the Los Angeles Rams in free agency this offseason, and they obviously see much more in him than I do. They signed him to a two-year deal worth $17 million, signaling that they view him as an important part of their short-term future. He will also get to benefit from playing alongside an even better player than Harrison in Aaron Donald.
Games played: 58 for Lions (58 in NFL)
Currently: With Los Angeles Rams, projected to start at defensive tackle in 2020
20. Will Harris
2019 third-round pick, 81st overall — Boston College — Safety
Will Harris had a rough rookie year. The safety was slotted into a starting role after the team dealt Quandre Diggs to the Seattle Seahawks, and he clearly looked out of his depth.
Harris was awful in 2019. The rookie looked lost in coverage and struggled to make plays against the run. He was a missed tackle machine and looked like a chicken with his head cut off. Harris is very fast and agile but has no idea how to put his immense natural talent to use.
The safety is not lower on this list because I do think he can write off some of his rookie year woes. Detroit drafted Harris in the third round knowing that he was a raw talent with huge upside. While they certainly expected him to be much better in 2019, Harris was always going to be a project. This season he will be able to potentially learn under a veteran like Duron Harmon as well.
If he does not improve in 2020, though, then it may be time to start counting this pick as a failed bet.
Games played: 16 for Lions (16 in NFL)
Currently: With Lions, likely to make 2020 roster and will compete for starting role
19. T.J. Hockenson
2019 first-round pick, 8th overall — Iowa — Tight end
T.J. Hockenson is another one of Quinn’s most controversial picks. Detroit had their first top-10 pick in almost a decade and spent it on a tight end. The position is already one of the least valuable ones to select early in the draft, and many fans already had a sour taste in their mouth with early first round tight ends after the selection of Eric Ebron in 2014.
The tight end got his career off to a great start. A record-breaking debut saw him rack up 131 receiving yards and a touchdown. The rest of his season was a resounding disappointment, though. In 10 games—outside of the debut—he only totaled 236 yards and one touchdown.
Hockenson should get better. Tight ends who turn out great usually make a big leap in Year 2. It will always be tough for a tight end to live up to that draft billing, though. Unless Hockenson becomes a George Kittle-esque player that is elite as both a receiver and blocker, it will hard for the Lions to feel they got value out of this pick. The value they can receive out of it can change if he has a huge sophomore season, though.
Games played: 11 for Lions (11 in NFL)
Currently: With Lions, lock to make roster and projected to start in 2020
18. Ty Johnson
2019 sixth-round pick, 186th overall — Maryland — Running back
Detroit went for a home run hitter in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL draft. They nabbed Ty Johnson, the Maryland running back that made a name for himself in college for his blazing speed. The Lions, a team that lacked speed in the skill positions, added him hoping that he could add another dimension to the offense.
Johnson was a real contributor in his rookie year. The running back played in all 16 games and carried the ball 63 times for 273 yards. He also caught 24 passes for 109 yards. Those numbers are not particularly impressive, as we rarely got to see Johnson break loose downfield. As fast as Johnson is, problems with his vision and agility hindered him.
The running back’s career with the Lions may already be over. The team selected Jason Huntley, a speedster our of New Mexico State, in 2020. Huntley does a lot of things better than Johnson, and there may not be room on the roster for both of them.
Still, getting a good season of play—and potentially more—from a sixth rounder is nothing to scoff at.
Games played: 16 for Lions (16 in NFL)
Currently: With Lions, will be competing for roster spot in 2020
17. Tyrell Crosby
2018 fifth-round pick, 153rd overall — Oregon — Tackle
There was a lot of excitement when the Lions nabbed Tyrell Crosby in the fifth round of the 2018 draft. The offensive lineman was regarded by the media as a Day 2 pick but an extra couple of rounds.
Crosby has spent the past two seasons backing up the likes of Rick Wagner and Taylor Decker—two players that are not really known for their health. This means that, despite being a backup, Crosby has served in a starting role at some points in both of his NFL seasons.
The tackle has started seven games, and played in 26 for Detroit. He has served as reliable depth, but nothing more really. Even this season with Wagner out of the picture, the team gave a $30 million deal to Halapoulivaati Vaitai. This means the Lions still do not see Crosby as anything more than depth at tackle, which is fine for his fifth round draft status.
Games played: 26 for Lions (26 in NFL)
Currently: With Lions, likely to make roster in 2020
16. Miles Killebrew
2016 fourth-round pick, 111th overall — Southern Utah — Safety/Linebacker
Miles Killebrew has had one of the most interesting careers for the Lions. After being selected in the fourth round, he became a specialist for the team of some sort. He would play as an extra box safety on third downs in his rookie year. Killebrew took on a bigger role in year 2, featuring regularly in three safety sets.
Something happened, though. Killebrew fell out of favor late in the 2017 season. He barely played at all in 2018. In 2019, he came back, but as a linebacker. Killebrew finally started to get playing time on defense again, but it was sporadic at best.
Detroit clearly sees something in Killebrew, keeping him around for this long and giving him so many opportunities. He even received a second contract with the team that drafted him, a rarity in the NFL (albeit, on a one-year deal).
The Lions have clearly gotten a player they love with a fourth-round pick.
Games played: 63 for Lions (63 in NFL)
Currently: With Lions, likely to make roster in 2020